If you frequently experience an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest, sometimes accompanied by a bitter taste in your mouth, you might have acid reflux (heartburn). This happens when digestive acid is pushed up out of the stomach, and into your esophagus. Acid reflux can also cause you to wake in the middle of the night, gasping for air, especially if you ate a snack shortly before bedtime.
Antacid tablets or prescription medications can help relieve symptoms, but you might feel reluctant to depend upon medications. If you’d rather try more “natural” ways to manage your acid reflux before adding another prescription to your medicine cabinet, try these six methods of combating acid reflux.
Avoid your trigger foods. Try keeping a food diary so that you can identify the types of foods that appear to trigger your symptoms. For many people, fried foods, dishes high in fat, and carbonated beverages are to blame. Acidic foods like coffee or citrus can also cause heartburn. For some people, the solution is as simple as avoiding their trigger foods.
Avoid over- or under-eating. Eating too much at one meal can trigger reflux, but so can going too long in between meals. Eat small, regular meals throughout the day.
Take meds with a glass of water. Some medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, some antibiotics, and biphosphonates) can trigger heartburn. Make sure to take your pills with a glass of water to ease this complication.
Exercise regularly. Stronger diaphragm muscles mean that less acid can escape your stomach and rise into the esophagus. Exercising regularly can keep these, and other muscles, in tip top shape.
Lose weight. Reducing the amount of abdominal fat you’re carrying can relieve pressure on your stomach, which causes acid to be pushed into the esophagus and trigger heartburn symptoms. Even just a ten percent weight reduction has been shown to ease heartburn in many people.
Avoid eating right before bedtime. Stop eating three hours before bedtime, so that your stomach has time to process food before you lie down. And try propping yourself upright a bit, rather than lying down flat on your back, so that stomach acid can’t rise into your esophagus as easily. If you’re a side sleeper, try lying on your left side instead of the right.
If you try all of these methods and still experience heartburn, report your symptoms to your doctor. Certain medications or even surgery can relieve the problem, and protect your esophagus from further damage.